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By Concrete Playground
February 23, 2021
By Concrete Playground
February 23, 2021


Choc tops, popcorn and surround sound await.

After a year of streaming flicks on our laptops and phones, it's time to put bums back on seats at actual cinemas. Excitingly, you can do that at IRL film festivals, too. Yes, festivals. There are multiple happening RN. We've rounded up a few of our faves right here. Order an extra large popcorn and get ready for some serious viewing.

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    Mardi Gras Film Festival 2021

    Add the Mardi Gras Film Festival to the list of cinema events that have been making a big leap over the past year — and making cinephiles around the country very happy in the process. In 2021, the Sydney-based fest is forging ahead as a physical event to mark its 28th year. But, whether you’re a Sydneysider who is unable to head along to everything you’d like to see or you’re a fan of LGBTIQ+ movies located elsewhere in Australia, you’ll also be able to enjoy MGFF online as well.

    Different flicks will play in cinemas and online, with the festival running between Thursday, February 18–Thursday, March 4. In person, socially distanced screenings are slated for Event Cinemas George Street and Hurstville, Ritz Cinemas in Randwick, the Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne and Moonlight Cinema, and will span more than 60 sessions — with the entire program including 94 features, documentaries, shorts and episodes from 30 different countries.

    On the bill: opening night’s Dating Amber, which’ll see the fest launch at Moonlight Cinema for the first time; closing night’s Rūrangi, which was made by members of New Zealand’s queer, Māori, and gender-diverse communities; and the Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci-starring Supernova, a moving drama about a couple facing considerable health woes and big decisions.

    Other highlights include British feature Make Up, which is set in a Cornwall caravan park; German standout No Hard Feelings; a showcase of films by Israeli director Eytan Fox; the Vanessa Kirby-starring The World to Come; and the latest film from the inimitable Bruce LaBruce, with Saint-Narcisse following a man who discovers that he has a secret twin.

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    Jewish International Film Festival 2021

    Each week, Australia’s cinemas deliver plenty of excuses to spend time in a darkened theatre with your eyes glued to the big screen. But when the Jewish International Film Festival returns for 2021 — after sitting out last year due to the pandemic — it’ll serve up even more reasons to spend a night or several at the flicks, especially if you’re keen to explore a top-notch program of movies and television shows with ties to Jewish culture.

    A hefty lineup spanning 29 features, 19 documentaries and episodes from three TV series is on the bill when the festival hits Sydney between Thursday, February 18–Wednesday, March 24 — running at the Ritz in Randwick from February 18–March 17, and at Roseville Cinemas from March 6–24. JIFF 2021 will open with Incitement, which won Best Film at the Ophir Awards (aka Israel’s version of the Oscars), and steps into a young Orthodox law student’s attempt to assassinate the Israeli Prime Minister in 1995. At the other end of the fest, it’ll close with the first two episodes from the third season of Shtisel, starring Unorthodox breakout Shira Haas as the member of a Haredi family in Jerusalem.

    Also on offer: Haas again, this time as a teenager with a degenerative health condition in Asia; coming-of-age comedy Shiva Baby, focusing on a college student dealing with dramas at the titular event; and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, about a Jewish family fleeing Berlin in the 30s. Or, you can check out Ruth – Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words, the latest documentary about the late, great Supreme Court Justice; Alan Pakula: Going for Truth, which pays tribute to the director of To Kill a Mockingbird, Sophie’s Choice, All the President’s Men and more; and The Last Vermeer, with Dracula‘s Claes Bang as an army officer investigating paintings taken by the Nazis and Aussie star Guy Pearce playing a Dutch art dealer.

    Top image: Shtisel, Ohad Romano.

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    Summer is Cinema: A Film + Gin Festival

    Sydney’s intimate, boutique Golden Age Cinema is teaming up with Four Pillars Gin for a mini booze and film festival. Each Wednesday night from February 3–March 3, the 56-seat Surry Hills spot is hosting double bills paired with gin cocktails.

    It’s quite the lineup, too, with a little something for everyone on the bill. The festival is called Summer is Cinema, so that’s the kind of tone it’s going for — whether road movies, hazy escapades or out-there journeys are hitting the screen.

    First up on February 3 is Wes Anderson‘s The Darjeeling Limited — because the venue has also been running a season dedicated to the director — followed by seminal 90s classic Thelma and Louise. Or, if you’re in the mood for a different kind of cinematic trip, perhaps February 10’s pair of The Beach Bum and Inherent Vice will appeal. The next week, on February 17, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window will heat up the screen, accompanied by Spike Lee’s iconic Do the Right Thing. Then, on February 24 comes Studio Ghibli‘s Spirited Away and Alexandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, both classics in their own distinctive ways. Finally, Badlands and Wild at Heart will wrap things up on March 3 with a lovers-on-the-run duo.

    These flicks will all get a beverage to match, made with Four Pillar’s juniper spirits. The first screenings each evening kick off between 6–6.10pm, then the second start between 8.15–8.40pm — but we suggest you get there a little earlier for the drinks.

    Tickets cost $22.50 for each film.

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    Japanese Film Festival Classics Program

    Japanese cinema’s diverse array of wonders can’t be confined to one event. Sydneysiders can watch the latest and greatest films the country has to offer at the annual Japanese Film Festival; however, since 2014, cinephiles have also been able to step back into Japanese movie history, too — all thanks to its classics program.

    Next running from Tuesday, February 2, 2021–Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the latest old-school film program explores plenty of big-screen highlights from the 60s through to the 00s, especially if you’re fond of weird, wonderful, surreal and subversive flicks. If you haven’t ever watched Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man, take the opportunity to redress that situation — because we all need to see a movie about a man compelled to stuff metal into his body. Or, make a date with 70s standout House from director Nobuhiko Ōbayashi, which is about a creepy abode that eats schoolgirls.

    Other must-sees include Seijun Suzuki’s assassin-fuelled Pistol Opera; Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, Nagisa Ōshima’s 60s film about a man who steals from a bookstore in Shinjuku; and Eros + Massacre, a biopic about Sakae Ōsugi, who advocated for sexual freedom in the early 20th century.

    And, in great news for your wallet, attendance is free.

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    Dude, It's a Coen Brothers Retrospective

    Picking your favourite Coen brothers-directed movie is like choosing which of your pets you love most. It’s tricky, bordering on impossible, and it’s a task that no one should willingly take up. Also difficult: selecting which of the filmmaking siblings’ flicks to go see on the big screen at Sydney’s aptly titled Dude, It’s a Coen Brothers Retrospective screening series.

    All cinephiles should abide with this lengthy season, which is taking place at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick from Thursday, January 14–Friday, June 4. After kicking off with Fargo across January 14–17, a different movie will play each week from Friday, February 5  — and, as far as picking what to watch goes, you’re spoiled for choice. On the bill is everything from Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski to No Country for Old Men and Inside Llewyn Davis.

    That means you can laugh at Nicolas Cage, crave white russians, watch multiple Oscar-winning flicks, and listen to Oscar Isaac croon folk tunes while taking care of a cat — and work your way through the likes of Blood Simple, Barton Fink, Burn After Reading and Hail, Caesar!, too. And if you haven’t ever seen the glorious O Brother, Where Art Thou? on a big screen, that’s something we definitely recommend fixing during the 18-title retro season.


Top image:Golden Age by Cassandra Hannagan


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